Calls for change in law to stop MPs keeping their job in prison after sentencing of Peterborough MP Fiona Onasanya

There have been calls for the law to be changed to stop sitting MPs keeping their seat if they are jailed, following the sentencing of Peterborough MP Fiona Onasanya.

Thursday, 31st January 2019, 11:22 am
Updated Thursday, 7th February 2019, 8:04 pm
Fiona Onasanya arrives at court

Onasanya was locked up for three months on Tuesday after she was found guilty of perverting the course of justice. However, she has not resigned from the post, and a recall petition, giving residents the chance to trigger a by-election, cannot be started until her appeal process has finished.

Onasanya is the first sitting MP to be jailed for nearly 30 years.

The Old Bailey heard Onasanya is not resigning because her MP salary of £77,000 is her only source of income.

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Fiona Onasanya arrives at court

Today in The House of Commons, Sir Mike Penning, Conservative MP for Hemel Hempstead, called for a change in the law.

He said: “There is one issue that is bringing this house into disrepute today, and that is a member of this house is in prison, and continues to be an MP.

“My constituents and other constituents around the country do not understand that. They do not understand how anybody can be convicted of a crime and still be a member of this house, and be in prison.

“Police officers that protect us here, they lose their pensions, they lose everything. Something is seriously wrong.

“So can we have a debate, in the time we have got now it seems, to actually change the law that allows the public to believe what we do is right, and if you go to prison, you shouldn’t be in this house.”

Leader of the House, Andrea Leadsom MP agreed, and said: “Of course my Honourable Friend is quite right, it is not acceptable for residents of Peterborough that their Member of Parliament is unable to represent them, both physically unable to represent them, but also is choosing not to do what I think all Honourable and Right Honourable members would say is the right thing to do.

“Under the Recall of MPs Act of 2015 an MP becomes subject to the Recall Petition process if they are convicted of a criminal offence in the United Kingdom and receive a custodial sentence - and that includes a suspended sentence - in this case it is not a suspended sentence.

“In the case however, of a criminal conviction, the recall condition will not be met unless the appeal period expires without the conviction, sentence or order being overturned on appeal.

“What that means in layman’s terms is that until all appeals are finalised, the recall petition will not be triggered, so I do agree with my Hounourable Friend that it would be right for that member to stand down and allow her local residents to stand down and choose a new Member of Parliament.”